Tiwaz – Initial Rune Study

Six months ago I started a thorough initial study of the Elder Futhark. Each week I would focus on a new rune, reading the rune poems and a number of published interpretations. While these posts are old (originally posted to my Tumblr), I want to move them over here for easy reference.

Week 17: Tiwaz

Basic meaning: Tyr, the sky-god

Further meanings: Honor, justice, leadership, and authority.  Analysis, rationality.  Fairness, even-headedness.  Knowing where one’s true strengths lie.  Willingness to self-sacrifice.

Divinatory meanings:  Victory or success in competition, battle, or legal matters.  May refer to law & order, social issues, legal contracts, and oaths.  May point to the need to look at something from a fair, unbiased view.

Reverse/Merkstave meanings:  One’s energy and creative flow are blocked.  Mental paralysis, over-analysis, over-sacrifice, injustice, imbalance.  Strife, war, conflict, failure in competition.  Dwindling passion, difficulties in communication, and possibly separation.

Magical uses:  Can be used to win something if one is morally and ethically right (it is not effective for selfish, greedy gain); obtaining just victory and success.  Aids in building spiritual will.  Develops the power of positive self-sacrifice.  Develops the “force of faith” in magic and religion.

Personal thoughts on and associations with Tiwaz

I’ve sort of been dreading this rune because I, for various reasons, have had a very rocky opinion of Tyr.  I’ll get to that point in a sec.

For the rune meaning itself, it is helpful for striving towards an ending, finding strength when it seems it’s gone, keeping a cool head in a hard situation.  I’ve been dealing with a lot at work, and I can definitely see this rune helping me find the means to keep going with it all.

Now, back to my first statement.  There’s not a lot known about Tyr, though there’s evidence that suggests he’s historically an older god than Odin.  Mythologically, the story of the binding of Fenris-ulfr is most of what’s left to tell about him.

The reason this story has always bugged me is because, like many stories involving oracles and fate (yo Greek mythology, I’m looking at you), there is always this part where the gods or characters or whatever find out about this horrible fate, and in an attempt to change that fate, actually bring it about.  It drives me crazy.  And I don’t see the binding of the wolf to be any different.  If anyone really wants me to, I can go into full details on that, but I’m tired, so I’m not going to right now.  Ha.

Yes, you can tell me the point is that fate can’t be changed or whatever, but, no.  Seriously.  If the Aesir hadn’t thrown the snake in the ocean where all he could do is bite his tail, stuck Hella in, well, Hel (which, of the three, she seems to have at least taken that in stride), and had the wolf’s actual friend freaking betray him so that they could bind him up when none of them had actually done anything wrong yet, then yeah.  It seems like that might have turned out a little differently.

So, unlike a lot of the other runes where I could happily read about it and think about it and notice its influence in my life, I had to take a really big step with this rune: make peace with it.

For the first time ever, I prayed to Tyr.  I asked for understanding.  And I kept the Tiwaz rune in my mind the whole time.

Long story short, I’ve learned that I have to stop reading every myth as a 100% factual reality.  I don’t know why that’s difficult for me.  Possibly because when I read I do very much imprint exactly what is said as a reality, and with myths it’s hard not to.  Growing up Christian, I have the added bonus of believing for a long time that every word in the Bible happened exactly as written.  So it’s hard to break the cycle of thought.

The good news is that I’d started coming to terms with this a couple of weeks ago.  No, I haven’t completely reconciled where the differences are, or what the deeper meanings are.  But I’ve gotten a good start.

And what I learned after meditating on Tyr and his rune is that the story is much less about a snake and a wolf and an exiled goddess.  It’s about an even-minded god who saw all aspects of the worlds fairly, but when forced to make a choice, he stands by his kin.

I also had an impression of the wolf as the Nothing (yes, I am totally referencing the Neverending Story, deal).  The Wolf is a personification of that, an all-devouring void.  Tyr, of all the gods, being if you choose to believe so, the oldest among them, even older than Odin (despite later being rewritten as one of his son’s), was the only one unafraid to face that Nothing.  He reached his hand into the Nothing and nothing was what he brought back.

Needless to say, while I still have some issues with the story, I have a much higher respect for the god now.  I am hoping as I further study this rune, its other meanings will become more apparent, but for now I am satisfied having crossed this bridge.

Sources for meanings:

  • Sunnyway.com/runes/index.html
  • Runelore by Edred Thorsson
  • Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic by Edred Thorsson
  • Principles of Runes by Freya Aswynn
  • Northern Mysteries and Magick by Freya Aswynn
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